This Morning the Earth Stood Still

If you were an early bird like me and on your computer circa 5:30-5:45 a.m. EST this morning, or on the other side of the world when this would be a reasonable time of the day, you too may have participated in the “Great Gmail outage of February 2009.”

Yes, Gmail was down, and mass panic ensued it what became commonly known as Gfail.

The hysteria could probably best be observed first hand on Twitter, where thousands of users, myself included, screamed in protest and paranoia.

@sandersonjones probably said it best,

Google, I know you’re listening. I give you my life. You make Gmail work. That is the deal.

My entire life was in Gmail, including several hundred thousand pages of legal documents and notes. Gmail’s enormous storage size always made it more convenient for transferring files, and making sure I didn’t lose any information (like the laptop I lost in the airport this weekend). Google Reader, which I use for all my blog reading, was also down, but hardly of a similar priority.

Google’s official statement by Acacio Cruz, Gmail Site Reliability (sic) Manager provides absolutely no explanation for the outage, which is the first since offline support was added.

Murad Ahmad at Tech Central points out that it had been over an hour for some countries (it varied geographically, and for me it lasted around 15 min., others two hours or more) and that many companies have moved to Gmail as their professional communication system.

Jemina Kiss at the Guardian’s Digital Content Blog estimates the damage it may have caused,

“Let’s count the cost: 25m users, 33% affected; average of $50 per hour lost productivity = $415m per hour economic cost…”

She didn’t consider lawyers’ billable hour rates.

Although it wasn’t intended, this incident was probably the best advertisement for Gmail’s offline options through Gears or IMAP. Somehow these users were spared.

The rest of us will continue to live in even more accentuated paranoia, checking our Gmail even more regularly than we already do, just to make sure that everything is still there.


  1. Sorry, how much do you guys pay for Gmail again? OH WAIT NEVER MIND!

    Which is why y’all should consider using online Exchange servers and file storage. They actually guarantee the safety and integrity of your email and data, which is why you pay for those services.